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Bus.Tops – a city wide canvas for sharing the art of our streets, our communities, our London, our experience.

Bus.Tops provides the canvas that allows London to tell its stories. These can be small, intimate stories of a neighbourhood or citywide adventures that draw us into a London we never imagined; or simply moments of beauty, wonder, questioning, critique, comment and exploration. These stories unfold on a canvas made up of networked panels of programmable LEDs situated on the roofs of bus stops across London.

As well as the canvas, Bus.Tops provides the tools and platform from which both publicly recognised artists and the public we recognise as artists are empowered to create a truly public art experience. Bus.Tops will work with established artists to create a “curated” collection of works distributed across the bus.tops canvas. These will be celebrated as being at the vanguard of artistic innovation and exploration. However these works will also be the foundation from which a new generation of authors and artists will be inspired create their first piece of public art.

The potential of Bus.Tops is only limited by the imagination of 8 million Londoners.

Ed note: The Tag Line 'I had to climb up here just to say hello' is from an existing work by someone, we found the image here If anyone knows who created it please let us know!

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Viziters - a Bus Tops update

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We had a Bus Tops workshop in beautiful Brighton on Saturday. Emile has a simply wonderful flat looking out over the sea. Some remarkable thinking came out of the workshop, cementing how we will be approaching the Bus Tops project. In the team, and day-to-day planning and management, we've been so focused on the  practical and mechanistic elements of the project we havent really had time to focus on the conceptual.

Personally, from the start I've (Alfie here) been a bit concerned that we've just been creating a platform; a project that is an administratively led one rather than one driven by an overarching conceptual framework. I've had lots of thoughts over the last couple of months that try to bridge this gap between the practical and the ephemeral, and the workshop brought all of our thinking together, resulting in something I think is very beautiful.

There are lots of metaphors we came up with that help us in looking at what these Bus Tops will be, the central one is that for 13 months we will have Vizit?rs in London at at least 33 places. That's how we are seeing the Bus Tops displays - as people visiting London. London is a city of Old and New, made up of citizens and Visitors, and they experience the city uniquely through a confluence of senses, emotions and ideas: identity, loneliness, familiar strangers, dissociation, wonder, love, fear, pain... The Bus Tops Vizit?rs are the same. Like any visitor to London, they will be accreting knowledge of the city all the time - forming impressions and tastes; preferences. They will join the citizens of London during the run up to the Olympics, and through the Olympics itself.

Each Vizit?r will be a totally distinct being. Each will have an artificial intelligence which will let it filter what comes through it's sensorium (the art people make and send to it) and make, to some extent, it's own decisions on what it prefers, over time. Let's extend this organic metaphor to environmental variables. The Vizit?rs will be subject to  londons elements. Giving the Vizit?r sensors that let it reflect that through what it expresses is a beautiful way of translating that thing which affects us all - actually being in the city, through sun and snow, hail and loud boom boxes, smog and traffic jams.

The intelligence which underlies the Vizit?rs will (potentially) work similarly to starling flocking algorithms: any visitor in the flock uses the relative position of it's 7 closest neighbours to help determine its own actions and preferences . They will be sharing what they have learned and seen every day (content, environmental variables, noises etc) with these neighbours, kind of like a small online tourist forum. This sharing of tastes and experience will further influence each visitors ultimate preferences, over time tending to display works with specific characteristics.
"Systems composed of a large number of heterogeneous agents that interact exchanging information often display very complex behaviour that cannot deduced in a simple way by studying the behaviour of the single agent.

Sometimes this behaviour corresponds to the movement of the system in an appropriate abstract configuration space (as, for example, in neural networks); in other cases the system takes different shapes in a two- or three-dimensional space, and we can observe the formation and evolution of characteristic and complex patterns."

Some of the characteristics that each Vizit?r express might be driven by the metadata associated with the content that artists send, some might be associated with what they have experienced of their environments, and how that data relates to the content being sent to it. Extremely simplified example:  if it's cold a lot, and cold has an affinity with the colour blue, then work which is sent to it to be displayed which has a lot of blue, it will prefer to display.

So an artist might create work to be seen on that stop there, but perhaps in fact it rejects it, and it goes back into the network. But *that* Vizit?r over there positively loves video with lots of red in it. We are giving the Vizit?rs a curator role. This idea has implications for how the site will work and what expectations artists might have for their work being seen at specific locations. It follows that it has implications for our feelings about the exploration of location too, but these are variables that we will work out and play-test when we get to the point of creating the software.

The overarching concept is that over the 13 months of installation each Vizit?r will build an eclectic and individual sense of 'taste' and preference, much like any visitor who spends a year in London would. The point, despite any of the specifics, is to create a 13 month snapshot of a life lived in London during the run-up to and experience of the Olympics.

During the periods when, perhaps, either no-one has selected time slots to have work displayed, or there are simply no buses (proximity sensor) they will be in a 'sleep' state. Like ours, their 'dreams' will be some kind of a reflection of their experiences. What might their dreams *look* like? What might the Vizit?rs *look* like ....

We've been thinking about materials for Vizit?r bodies. One of the beautiful things about wood is that it is really hardy, allowing the Vizit?r to weather the rain, snow, sun, dirt, pigeon shit etc. And what happens to you in life? You get dinged up. You get rained on, occasionally you get shat on. And you are changed because of it. So that becomes part of who they are after their visit. The Vizit?r will age into becoming the finished work.

Vizit?rs is an installation work that happens in parallel at at least 33 places, resulting in 33 unique beings. Every piece of art they ever displayed, every dream they ever had, adds to the finished artwork which then lives on, constantly telling it's story of the year it experienced in London.

We wanted to share this online so that you can hold the ideas in your mind, turn them over, and let us know what you think.

Alfie and the Bus Tops Brigade, cross posted from Bus Tops
1st Mar 2010, 13:23   | tags:,

Viv says:

Hi Alfie,
Would be great to have an update and ongoing pics of some of the images

23rd Feb 2012, 11:09

Alfie says:

Hi Viv, I guess it's really tough to update across many channels so we keep everything over at http://bus-tops.com and then feed that into the facebook and twitter accounts.

24th Feb 2012, 14:36

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